7 questions you need to ask when choosing a software developer

Some businesses feel out of their depth when commissioning bespoke software. Michael Hawthornwaite shares 7 crucial questions you need to ask a developer before signing the cheque.

14th January 2009 at 6:32 pm

Choosing appropriate computer software can be a daunting task for many business owners.

Some businesses choose to purchase off-the-shelf packages but many see the advantages in commissioning bespoke software that hs been specifically designed to accommodate their needs.
In an era so technologically advanced, many can feel out of their depth when deciding on software that will benefit their business.

Here are 7 questions decision makers in business should ask when sourcing a software developer, to avoid any of the pitfalls.

1) Will the software work on your existing hardware and operating systems?

It is vital to ensure your current hardware will be compatible with the newly designed software.  Discovering that you need to buy a server, new PCs or an upgrade for your operating system is an expense that could have been avoided.

2) Who will own the Intellectual Property (IP) of the finished system?

In order to avoid problems in the future, find out if you will have exclusive rights to the software system that has been created.  If your business will own the IP, ask if there are any third party components that will be used that you will not own. You may be left facing further unnecessary charges for future software use and your competitors could benefit from software you paid to be developed.

3) What programming technologies will they use, and why?

It’s not uncommon for some software developers to only work with technologies they prefer using.  Ensure the developer is using programming languages that are appropriate for your project and ask them to explain the reasons why they are best suited to increasing efficiencies for your business.

4) What are the ongoing costs for the system?

Ongoing costs for the system could include things such as hosting, licenses and maintenance.  All costs should be outlined in an agreement prior to the system being built to avoid any surprise costs further down the line.

5) Does the developer have a snagging period?

Systems can experience the odd glitch when they go live.  Developers should allow for a certain period of time after the system goes live to rectify any problems free of charge.  Agree this with them before the software is developed.  Time periods may vary depending on the size of the project but a reasonable amount to request is between one and three months.  Obviously try and negotiate the longest period you can.

6) What are their response times to emergency situations?

It’s essential that you are fully aware from the outset how quickly the software company can respond should something go wrong with the system.  More importantly, find out what the company classes as an emergency.

7) Is it possible to develop the software further in the future?

Discuss the plans you have for your business going forward with your software developer in your initial meetings.  You need to ensure they are capable of providing software that will not only be sufficient for your current needs but will be compatible with future growth. It may be far more cost effective to look at the longer term, than have to create new software further down the line when your needs change.

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Michael Hawthornthwaite is Managing Director of Acid Computer Services. Acid provides bespoke software, database and web application solutions to UK and worldwide businesses and specialises in customer relationship management (CRM) and data management software. http://www.acidcs.co.uk

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